Funny isn’t it, how easily blasé one can become? I wrote most of this is in NY, in December (2017!).
Now I think “Grand Central Station. Wow!”, I long for the thrill of being there. Such an iconic place.
Yet I appear to have written this like I’d just popped down to the corner shop?
Grand Central Station, and another reminder that New York transport is not that easy to navigate.
The subway. Possibly the hardest underground system in the world.
How do I know?
I don’t, but I’ve used a good number and this is the most complicated by far.
There are no maps at the stations showing where the trains will stop, some trains don’t even have maps in the carriages.
To add to the fun, the maps there are (on the NYC Subway app for example) don’t even show exactly where the stations are.
Luckily, since I never have to be anywhere at any specific time, this just isn’t an issue. It just doesn’t matter.
No damage done, genned up on knowledge I was able to find my train relatively easily, just glad I’m not the anxious type…
The sky is grey today. You know that murky white-grey that zaps all feelings of optimism? Yes? That.
But today, nothing is going to get me down.
I’m going Upstate New York. Alone!
Nonetheless, the journey is monochrome, quite remarkably so. The train literally runs along the edge of the Hudson River.
Imagine the journey in beautiful blue skies…
The view was occasionally broken by the remains of fall, or a few road cones (on reflection, odd when traveling a river by train). Otherwise, the palate was grey, with intermittent flashes of browns and greens. But never a vivid tone. I longed for mid-town Manhattan where there is no space for anything far from primary colours. A feast for the eyes that mine will never tire of.
Beacon. My destination.
After convincing myself that Upstate probably doesn’t only exist in this colo(u)r scheme, I am reassured that the people here will not all be severely depressed. But my first sight of Dia:Beacon (The museum for the Dia Art Foundation’s collection of art from the 1960s to the present) was not any more promising:
However, the museum inside is truly stunning!
An old box printing factory, the massive warehouses are spacious, calm and quiet. Read that as perfect.
The Louise Bourgeois exhibition is in an attic gallery space, dimly lit, but given that it’s housing some of her more unusual, often eerie sculptures, it seems most fitting.
I was immediately struck by how much I’ve come to understand and be able to interpret, or at least have a clue about the emotions she may have been expressing in her prints, but how much I still have to learn about her sculpture.
To be honest, I felt completely at sea to start with, and with a pretty entrenched phobia of water, that’s not a great place to be!
Yet again I yearned for my 6.5kg Louise Bourgeois ‘bible’ (Intimate Geometries by Robert Storr) at home for obvious reasons.
However [and with a bit more research since being there] let me introduce you to a couple of pieces:
Louise, humorously, denied the sexual references in her work… In 1968 (aged 57) Bourgeois was still struggling to get noticed in the very male dominated art world. She had had a long break from making work and had a lot of psychoanalysis. Her work had taken a turn from her wooden architecturally inspired works to more organically shaped sculpture, but the themes she returned to repeatedly hadn’t changed. Loneliness, jealousy, anger and fear.
In 2006 Bourgeois became the highest paid living woman artist (aged 95) after one of her spiders (Maman) sold for $4m. This was surpassed in 2008 when another sold for $4.5m. By 2011 (a year after her death) one sold for $10,722,500 and the most recent to sell was in 2015 for a whopping $28.2m.
This remains the second highest price ever paid for art made by a woman – Georgia O’Keefe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 sold for $44.4m in 2014. In comparison the figures stand around $450m and $300m for male artists work.
And I can’t help but wonder whose pockets are lined by the buying and selling of these works?
I properly love this particular spider. Way more dark, menacing, threatening even, than any of the ones I have seen before. The majority of the others have had more of the mother protector stance, notably, this was the first I’d seen that wasn’t nursing 3 eggs (Louise had 3 sons, who she often depicted as eggs in a nest), so I think it’s safe to assume this is a male spider. The way Crouching Spider is squeezed into this room, trapped by the open brick wall, his legs are glistening black. It’s a treat to be able to move around him, under him, touch him. He’s a beauty, and definitely not for the arachnophobic!
FRAGILE MAISON 1978. Bourgeois was making huge installation-based work around this time, but still returned to strict geometrics and architecture to express emotions of human frailty and potentially unstable relationships.
And then it was time to go find my hotel and check out Beacon.
I’ve travelled in USA a fair bit over the past 20 years, but predominantly to either big cities or university towns. Never to a small town like this.
Google told me to walk the main road around the outside of the centre, to enter the town near my hotel. It did occur to me that it may not be the best plan, but it was the quickest, and at a 35-minute walk with my not so light bags (traveling light, except for books and artwork), I thought I’d go with it.
It felt like walking the streets of a movie set in a parochial town, 2 storey wooden houses, the odd person fumbling around in their garden, 2 people shouting fuck off repeatedly and seemingly to themselves, a strong smell of weed.
Nobody took any notice of me (they were in a film, they had a job to do), so it didn’t feel unsafe, but I was mighty glad to hit the main street and find lovely vintage stores, art galleries, posh candle shops, and warm welcoming cafes.
I forget whether there was little choice or whether, in my anxiety on booking this hotel, I just needed somewhere I thought I’d feel safe (I know nobody for hours in any direction, that feels quite alone), but it turns out the hotel is lovely and I have spent the evening in the luxury of one of my two double beds.
I’ve always wondered, are these rooms meant for two couples staying together…?
Bruce Nauman – Hanged Man (1995)